4/18/2010

What is "Offensive"?

I had an interesting exchange with two friends on Facebook about what is offensive. One of those friends is a newer one I met through a transplant group and one is an old high school friend. We were discussing the neo-nazi rally in Los Angeles and a phrase used by the Associated Press in covering that rally. The AP described one of the white supremacists who removed his shirt to display the lightning bolt symbol associated with the SS. The AP described the symbols as "offensive to some." I said that the symbol would be offensive to anyone except the neo-nazis present and that describing it in such a way seemed to say that there would be those who are not neo-nazis who would see such a symbol as either morally neutral or even positive in some manner.

The responses were interesting. My old friend from high school said that the she did not find it offensive because, basically, free speech dictated that they should be allowed to express themselves however they chose outside physical violence. My newer friend said that the symbol was offensive but that people had varying degrees of what  they found "offensive" and great latitude should be given in calling something offensive.

Both missed the point of my opinion somewhat and pointed out the problem with the word. I like precise language. The word "offensive" has been watered down in our society to now mean anything at all with which we disagree on principle regardless of the intent with which any symbol or action is undertaken.

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